31 August 2010

Alaska Quashes Abortion Access for Young Women

The fight for reproductive freedom in Alaska has just reached its boiling point.

Last week, Alaska voters passed an initiative requiring that the parents of women aged 17 and under must be notified before any abortion procedure takes place. The new law also puts in place a 48-hour waiting period between parental notification and performance of the procedure.

While it's true that this new legislation does not require parental consent (an earlier law that did was deemed unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court), and while it does allow for a judge to bypass the required notification, the law nevertheless places young women -- and their doctors -- in a precarious situation.

Doctors who fail to notify the parents of an underage patient seeking an abortion could face "felony charges and a prison sentence of up to five years." And for the young women affected by the new law, accessing an abortion just got one step closer to next to impossible. Not only is the measure likely to frighten a good number of young women away from even considering having the procedure (I have to tell my parents? Or stand in front of a judge? Forget it) and thus force them into teen parenthood, it will also inevitably put young women's lives at risk. Many could find themselves homeless if their parents disagree with their choice. Others could find themselves battered or dead for exactly the same reason.

Abortion may still be legal in Alaska, but voters have now made it a potentially harmful, even deadly, procedure for the young Alaskan women whose families may have different views then their own about a woman's right to choose. Remember what it was like to be 16 years old: how many of us -- facing threats of violence or even just parental disapproval -- could say we'd have had the strength to follow through under these conditions? Probably very few -- and that is exactly what anti-choice advocates are hoping for.

(It's worth noting that Joe Miller, who's locked in a recount battle for the Republican nomination for one of Alaska's Senate seats, was a strong supporter of the ballot measure; Miller was endorsed by the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee and other far right notables. Lisa Murkowski, the Republican incumbent, may end up losing her seat in the Senate because she refused to take an outspoken stance in support of the measure.)

Alaska is one among dozens of states where forces on the right are rolling back access to abortion while its legality is maintained in name only. Just days before the vote in Alaska, we wrote about exactly that threat, and noted how past and current grantees like Advocates for Youth and SisterSong -- not to mention organizations like COLOR and NLIRH -- are doing the hard work of pushing back against these restrictive measures around the nation. We support these organizations because we believe in their power to turn back the tide of anti-choice legislation making its way across our nation; help us help them by making a donation to the cause today.

Donate now and a special matching grant will double your support -- dollar-for-dollar -- for reproductive justice organizations led by women of color.

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